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Review: Woody Allen still Woody in 'Antz'

Web posted on: Friday, October 02, 1998 9:53:58 AM

From Reviewer Paul Clinton

(CNN) -- Get out the Raid. The battle of the bugs has begun. The first bug flick to crawl onto the big screen is DreamWorks' "Antz," beating Disney's also-animated "A Bug's Life" to the box office by eight weeks.

If you ever needed proof that all of Hollywood drinks from the same idea pool, the last couple of years have provided ample evidence. We've had battling volcano movies, dueling earth-shattering asteroid movies, and now a double bug invasion.

Paul's Pix: "Antz"
Windows Media: 28k or 56k
Real: 28k or 56k

Theatrical preview: "Antz"
Windows Media: 28k or 56k
Real: 28k or 56k

Clip: "Digging is fun"
Video clip: 2Mb QuickTime

Both films are about one ant who saves the day---by saving his ant hill from disaster. But there are some major differences here. "Antz" is only the second film to be entirely done by computer animation. (The first was "Toy Story.") "A Bug's Life" is done the old-fashioned way. Also, "A Bugs Life" will be rated G and aimed directly at kids. The PG-rated "Antz" is filtered through the sensibilities of Woody Allen, and is more or less an adult comedy from an ant's point of view.

Neuroses in an ant hill, plain and simple

"Antz" is being ballyhooed as a huge breakthrough in computer animation, the first animated film from the newest studio on the block, DreamWorks. And some of the biggest names in Hollywood are making their debut in a non-live action motion picture.

But the real deal? This is a Woody Allen film, plain and simple. Allen has just dragged his neuroses from the concrete canyons of Manhattan to a well-drawn ant hill.

The part of Z the worker ant was written for Allen and it shows. He's the middle child of a family of 5 million, seeing a shrink, and complaining about his father leaving when he was only a little larva. He's also trying to get in touch with his inner maggot.

Z is just not happy with his lot in life as a worker ant; he longs to break away from the crowd. Sharon Stone provides the voice of Princess Bala, who isn't looking forward to her future either. Eventually she'll become queen of the ant hill and be expected to pop out millions of baby ants.

Together they leave the ant hill and seek out a paradise called Insectopia (actually a trash can near a picnic table in a public park). But trouble brews and Z is forced to return to the ant hill to save his family. All 5 million of them.

Cast of stars

Sylvester Stallone plays Weaver, a soldier ant who is Z's best friend. Gene Hackman is the ambitious Gen. Mandible, who is trying to take over the ant hill and rebuild it in his own image. Anne Bancroft is perfectly cast as the queen ant.

Also providing vocals are Dan Aykroyd and Jane Curtain as a couple of wasps, as well as John Mahoney, Danny Glover, Jennifer Lopez and Christopher Walken.

"Antz" is basically a straightforward story about individuality versus group conformity. Our hero Z is uncomfortable with the over-regimented world of his fellow ants, and no one does uncomfortable better than Woody Allen.

Overall, "Antz" provides a nice little message about not being pigeonholed by society, and that no matter what your station in life you can always do better if you believe in yourself. Allen provides plenty of comic relief, and the computer-generated animation is pretty impressive.

This is the season for big movies with grand themes. Can you spell Oscar? But if you're just looking for escapist entertainment with the minimal use of your brain cells "Antz" could do the trick.

"Antz" is rated PG, mainly due to some adult language, with a running time of 83 minutes.

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